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Leafs Fall to Blackhawks

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

CHICAGO – The sellout crowd chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and Patrick Kane cracked a wry grin.

It was a sweet ending to a difficult homestand for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kane had a goal and three assists, and the Blackhawks stopped a three-game slide with a dominant 7-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

“We’ve been, I don’t want to say struggling offensively, but we’ve been waiting for a game like this,” Kane said.

Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen each had a power-play goal, helping Chicago salvage the finale of a lacklustre four-game homestand. It was the Blackhawks’ first game since they lost Marian Hossa to a left leg injury, likely sidelining the veteran forward for a couple of weeks.

“It was good that we got something positive leaving here,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Scott Darling got the start in place of a resting Corey Crawford and made 35 saves, including an outstanding sprawling stop on Nick Spaling in the second period. Two of Darling’s six wins this season have come against lowly Toronto.

Mark Arcobello broke up Darling’s bid for his second career shutout with a rebound goal with 8:54 remaining. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau added a power-play goal and James Reimer had 25 saves for the Maple Leafs, who closed out a 1-4 road trip.

“Just forget it. We got tattooed, that’s the bottom line,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

Goals by Brandon Mashinter, Shaw and Seabrook staked Chicago to a 3-0 lead through two periods, and the Blackhawks blew it open with an impressive flurry in the third. Beginning with Panarin’s 19th goal of the season, the defending Stanley Cup champions scored on four of six shots.

Kane made it 5-0 with his 34th of the season, sending a wrist shot past Reimer on the stick side. Teravainen then stopped a 17-game scoring drought with his 10th of the season, and defenceman Viktor Svedberg converted a big slap shot from the low slot at 10:20.

“We had a lot of guys score tonight,” Kane said. “Maybe it gives them some confidence, maybe the whole team confidence offensively. It’s always important in here not to really worry about the offence. We know the goals are going to come.”

The four points matched a career high for Kane, accomplished three times just this season. He had three goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory at Toronto on Jan. 15 and leads the NHL with 82 points.

Duncan Keith added three assists for Chicago, which improved to 22-7-2 at home. Shaw finished with a goal and two assists, and Panarin also assisted on Kane’s goal.

“We haven’t played great,” said Shaw, who played with a cut near his right eye after a mishap during the morning skate. “We weren’t doing the little things right. We weren’t winning those 1-on-1 battles. We came out of that tonight and came out here and had a good first and built on it.”

Chicago was leading 3-0 in the second when Darling dove to grab Spaling’s shot, drawing a big ovation from the crowd of 21,767.

“A lot of things needed to go right,” Darling said. “I went to push (to the side), and my skate just didn’t grip the ice. You’ve just got to do whatever you can to go across the crease.”

Reimer had his own great sequence in the first, getting over to stop a shot by Panarin, and then denying Artem Anisimov in front.

“We probably took too many penalties, but it wasn’t our night, me included,” Reimer said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they were coming. And they got a couple of good opportunities and they buried them.”

NOTES: Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, became the first member of his draft class to reach 400 assists… Hossa was placed on injured reserve on Sunday. “Hopefully two weeks is probably what we’re looking at,” Quenneville said after Monday morning’s skate… The Blackhawks matched a season high for goals scored, and the Maple Leafs equaled their most goals allowed… Blackhawks D Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

Source: Leafs Fall to Blackhawks

Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

From Pension Puppets

What the market will pay for the Leafs’ expiring free agents is tough to gauge, but they’re a win for the Leafs regardless.

For many years, we here at PPP called for the Leafs to identify undervalued UFAs and sign them to cheap, short-term deals. We reasoned that if the player rebounded, he would either be re-signed as a useful player or dealt for assets at the trade deadline. If the player failed to produce the results desired, the team wouldn’t have wasted much in the way of money or long-term cap space, and in the meantime, would have sheltered prospects.

Instead, because the Leafs fixated for so many years on more expensive “blue-collar” players such as Mike Komisarek, David Clarkson and Dave Bolland, the team wound up spending extra money on an area of market inefficiency. While the Leafs slowly figured out that they could pay 3rd and 4th line players peanuts every year, other teams noticed as well, and started to pay less and less for their own bottom-six and bottom-pairing talent.

With the market bottoming out for short-term UFA help, there has been some consternation that the Leafs’ “pump’n dump” contracts won’t yield much of anything at the deadline, which is to say that most teams have a bunch of cheap, short-term contracts they can use to plug holes in their lineup already. The fact that a number of well-known NHL veterans have hit the waiver wire recently and gone unclaimed seems to add further credence to the idea that what the Leafs currently have on offer isn’t worth beans on the trade block.

Here’s the thing though: that’s fine. The Leafs’ cheap, short-term UFA deals are already paying dividends.

Even if the team gets nothing for any of the players signed/acquired this summer, they will have already had the benefit of three advantages: 1) the team got to take a chance on their bouncing back at next to no cost, 2) they didn’t plug up their cap situation with bad, long-term deals that will impede the Leafs’ ability to re-sign the likes of Mitch Marner or William Nylander, and 3) they got to keep prospects in their farm system for longer, instead of leaning heavily on young players in a hopeless losing season.

But what about their trade value, though?

Within the context that these pump’n dump deals are already a success, it doesn’t make too much sense to worry about the returns that these players yield for the Leafs – anything, absolutely anything they get in return is gravy. Having said that, it’s all but guaranteed that the Leafs will be able to get a pick or two out of the mix.

Certain contracts, like those of Roman Polak or Tyler Bozak each stand a realistic chance of netting the Leafs a tidy return before the trade deadline, so it’s not as though the Leafs are unable to acquire more assets without their pump’n dump deals, but let’s look at the list of players signed/acquired in this past off-season who are on the trading block:

Player Cap hit
Michael Grabner $3,000,000
Shawn Matthias $2,300,000
Daniel Winnik $2,250,000
Nick Spaling $2,200,000
P.A. Parenteau $1,500,000
Mark Arcobello $1,100,000
Brad Boyes $700,000
Rich Clune $575,000
Matt Hunwick $1,200,000
Martin Marincin $700,000
Frank Corrado $632,500

There are a few players on the above list that don’t strictly meet the pump’n dump criteria, but I thought I would include them for the sake of discussion. Grabner, for instance, cost the Leafs 5 middling prospects to acquire (don’t trade young goaltenders!), Spaling came over in the Kessel deal, Marcin cost Brad Ross and the 107th pick (not to mention the fact that Marincin is still young), and while Corrado was a waiver wire pickup, he is still young enough to have some limited upside. Nevertheless, the Leafs would probably love to flip and and all of them (with the possible exceptions of Marincin and Corrado) for other assets, particularly draft picks.

The most likely to go are Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, and to a lesser extent Matthias, since all of their contracts are quite reasonable given their production. Hunwick also stands a decent chance of being moved, since his usage has quite outstripped his income, even if it has also exceeded his abilities. For any of these players, the Leafs might expect in return draft picks in the later rounds or maybe even just a body back in exchange that has a lower cap hit – the Leafs are going to have to manage their cap carefully so as not to go over and be penalized for next season.

Several of the other players look less likely to be traded, though the reasons vary. Corrado and Marincin, for example, are still young and have looked good in their limited showing with the Leafs so far, and so one would think that the Leafs would hang on to them for next season. Meanwhile, Grabner, Winnik, and Matthias all have box score numbers that make their cap hits more difficult to rationalize, especially given that they’ve played on a weak offensive team all year and have been handed plenty of opportunity to score. Clune and Spaling, on the other hand, cost virtually nothing but also add very little in the way of scoring help that most teams will be looking for at the deadline.

As for concerns about the NHL’s waiver wire setting the tone of the market, it’s true that it does, but not in the way you would think. Yes, there have been veterans let go, and it is true that they have gone unclaimed. But rather than indicate that teams don’t need help, it instead signals that teams are looking for greater cap efficiency from their bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defencemen, and several of the Leafs’ players mentioned above have that in spades.

Brandon Prust and Mason Raymond? They both cost too much for playoff teams to bother claiming them. Same for Sam Gagner. Scott Gomez doesn’t cost much, but then, he’s old as dust anyway. None of Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, or Hunwick are prohibitively expensive or old, and so it is possible that a market exists for their services. These waiver wire snubs don’t mean that playoff teams aren’t looking for rental help, it’s just that the help has to be cheaper.

With the sudden “injuries” to Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak and the trading of Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs have the perfect opportunity to showcase their inexpensive wares, and other teams have undoubtedly taken notice. It’s a matter of time before the Leafs begin converting them into later-round picks that will only help the rebuild.

Source: Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

Dion Phaneuf’s tenure with the Ottawa Senators began in Detroit on Wednesday night. On the second defence pair with youngster Cody Ceci, the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain had a different jersey, with a different number (2) and no letter on his chest.

After 423 games as a Leaf – the Senators’ most bitter rival – it was an odd visual.

Dion Phaneuf traded to Sens: A look at his hockey career in numbers (CP Video)

And the Phaneuf trade is only the beginning. More Leafs are likely to follow him out the door, with the majority of roster spots up for grabs in the 18 days left before the NHL’s trade deadline.

It’s expected Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello will be one of the NHL’s busiest executives the rest of the way. He has nine pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) on the current roster, and it makes no sense to hold onto any of them if prospects and/or draft picks can be had in return.

The Leafs have also discussed moving winger Dan Winnik and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who both have one year on their deals beyond this season, in talks with other teams.

Add in the veterans left from the former management’s core – Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak – and the three hefty contracts the Leafs just added from Ottawa on Tuesday and that is 16 players off the current 27-man roster (including injured reserve) who are undeniably available.

That’s a lot of trade calls.

Realistically, how many will be traded? And what can Toronto expect to get?

The unrestricted free agents

There are two groups of rental players the Leafs have to offer teams. The first – namely P.A. Parenteau and goaltender James Reimer – are players that have had good seasons and will be easy to move for something of value.

Reimer is a special case in that he is the only pending UFA who the team is still trying to re-sign. But he could be a valuable short-term option for a team such as Nashville, which is on the postseason bubble and having issues in goal. At the very least, Parenteau and Reimer should be able to garner second-round picks or solid prospects if they’re moved.

The second group comprises players with more limited value. Defenceman Roman Polak could be an exception given how many teams want big, physical-depth defencemen, but even then it’s hard to imagine he’d fetch much more than a third-round pick.

The Leafs other pending UFAs – Michael Grabner, Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling, Mark Arcobello, Brad Boyes, Rich Clune – have had marginal production this year (or spent time in the minors) so they’ll be a tougher sell.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that the Leafs somehow found takers for players such as Olli Jokinen (sixth-round pick from St. Louis) and Korbinian Holzer (fifth-round pick from Anaheim) at last year’s deadline. Anything is possible. Especially if Toronto takes back bad money in a deal, as they did in accepting Eric Brewer in the Holzer trade.

The trade bait and vets with big contracts

After moving Phaneuf, the Leafs don’t have many “big” contracts left. Lupul is the team’s highest-paid player at $5.25-million a season, followed by James van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Bernier in the $4.2-million range. The only player on the team signed beyond 2017-18 is defenceman Jake Gardiner, who is 25 years old.

It’s difficult to imagine they could find a taker for Lupul, as he has only 14 points in 46 games and is again on injured reserve. Bozak and Bernier, however, should have some value and could possibly be moved for second- or third-round picks simply to shed more salary.

The Leafs moved Winnik to Pittsburgh before last year’s deadline for a second- and fourth-rounder, which isn’t going to happen again given the season he’s had. A mid-round pick would be a reasonable return this time. It’s also possible the Leafs move Ottawa transplants Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Jared Cowen, who all have one year left on their deals. Cowen, in particular, could be intriguing for a contending team, as he can be bought out at a low cost in the summer in a transaction that will grant extra cap space in 2016-17.

Who is safe?

It’s unlikely the Leafs trade van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly or Gardiner, who will form the nucleus of a roster that is going to get even younger with an influx of a half-dozen or so players from the AHL’s Marlies next season.

Everyone else is an option.

That said, someone has to play with the kids next season. The Leafs have to be careful not to go too scorched-earth by putting young players in over their heads – the way Edmonton did – and ending up mired in the NHL’s basement for several more years.

They’ll get a close-up view of that on Thursday against the Oilers, with something of note on the line: The losing team will claim last place in the NHL standings.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

Source: Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?

Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

From The Star

Ever tight lipped, Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello at least acknowledges now is the time that he, the team’s pro scouting staff and the rest of the front office staff earn their keep.

The trade deadline is three weeks away — 3 p.m. on Feb. 29. By then, this particular group of Maple Leafs could be vastly different than the one that heads west this week for a four-game trip through Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Chicago.

The prices have been set. Calls are being made. The other shoe could drop at any time.

“You never know,” Lamoriello said. “In your mind you have something you’d like to see transpire. Then you just have to see where it goes from there. If there was anything imminent, it would be done. That’s the best way to approach it. It’s no different for anybody. It just depends on the guys somebody is looking for.”

The Leafs certainly hope they have what other teams are looking for. The roster seems designed to be dismantled, with seven pending unrestricted free agents.

Need a goalie? Try James Reimer. How about a hard-nosed, penalty-killing defenceman? Roman Polak. Some offensive help? P.A. Parenteau. Depth forwards? Shawn Matthias, Michael Grabner, Brad Boyes and Nick Spaling.

The Leafs have 48 professionals under contract — two under the limit — and enough salary-cap space to add contracts valued at an average of $10 million annually for the rest of the season. So Lamoriello is in prime position to take on a bad contract if there is something else — a prospect, a draft pick — in it for him.

“The whole key is how do you get better,” Lamoriello said. “How quick do you get better? Things evolve, and that usually makes decisions for you. It depends on what can or cannot happen. Then you have to make a judgment call whether that’s the right decision for what you have to do.”

The Leafs made six trades heading into the trade deadline last season. Only one was close to big: Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli for Olli Jokinen (later traded), a solid prospect in Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick (later traded).

The rest were depth players in trades designed for the Leafs to take on salary while being rewarded with mid-to-low level picks or cap relief

The players traded away: Jokinen, Korbinian Holzer, David Clarkson, Daniel Winnik and Spencer Abbott. Those coming in: T.J. Brennan, Zach Sill, Joakim Lindstrom, Eric Brewer, and Nathan Horton (with salary-cap relief because of his injury). Only Brennan remains, with the Marlies. Not exactly game changers.

But Toronto also acquired Anaheim’s fifth-round pick this summer, St. Louis’s sixth-rounder this summer, and Pittsburgh’s fourth-rounder last summer and second-rounder this summer. Again, not really game-changing. But volume matters. The Leafs could pick 11 times at the June draft.

The players whose names are sure to come up in trade speculation over the next few weeks are braced for it.

“I’ve been down that road before,” Parenteau said. “I know it’s part of the game. It’s tougher now, I have a family. You think about that. My little one is in school. I try to block it, and take it game by game and try to do my best.”

Parenteau signed with the Leafs over the summer in large part because of his relationship with Mike Babcock. He played for the Leafs head coach when they were in the AHL. He likes the direction he sees the Leafs going in and doesn’t want to leave.

“I have a great feeling,” Parenteau said. “I think it’s going to be a great team for a long time with what Mike’s building, and Lou. I think the guys appreciate me so far. It’s been a good fit. I’d like stay here.

“There are a lot of good kids coming up. They’re going to have a good team for a long time.”

Source: Leafs get ready to rearrange the roster

Game Journal: Game 49 – Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

4:30 PM: Tonight’s officials are Francois St-Laurent and Tom Kowal. Matt MacPheron and Michel Cormier will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen get you set for tonight’s game with the Maple Leafs Game Preview.

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4:00 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Bruins.
Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards
24 Holland – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov
40 Grabner – 42 Bozak – 15 Parenteau
23 Matthias – 16 Spaling – 26 Winnik
19 Lupul – 56 Froese – 25 Clune

Defence
2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly
3 Phaneuf – 20 Corrado
51 Gardiner – 46 Polak

Goaltenders
34 Reimer
45 Bernier

Boston Bruins

Forwards
63 Marchand – 37 Bergeron – 14 Connolly
21 Eriksson – 46 Krejci – 88 Pastrnak
39 Beleskey – 51 Spooner – 11 Hayes
36 Rinaldo – 25 Talbot – 29 Ferraro

Defence
33 Chara – 62 Trotman
44 Seidenberg – 48 C. Miller
47 Krug – 86 K. Miller

Goaltenders
40 Rask
70 Subban



2:30 PM: Here’s what Nick Spaling had to say ahead of tonight’s game…

Leafs TV

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What makes Boston so proficient on the power play?

Obviously they have skill like every power play but I think they work hard. They battle to get the puck back and they shoot it, they’ve got some guys with some good shots that are getting pucks through and a big thing is going to have to be taking that shot away and getting in lanes when they do shoot it. It’s going to be a good challenge tonight.

On the difficulty of maintaining balance between pressure down low and at the points:

They’ve got big shots and we want to take that away as best as we can. Their next option is they can go down low and they’ve got guys down there who are great around the net so we’ve got to make sure we’re keeping the front clear for the goalie tonight and doing our best job there.

How can forwards help negate Boston’s forecheck and improve zone exits?

We need a lot of talk. These guys have a good forecheck and they work hard so we’ve got to make sure we’re getting open and talking to our D, letting them know the best play with the puck to get it out of our zone.

How was the All-Star break for you to heal?

It was good. It was nice to have that time to take some time off and relax and get ready for the second half here.



2:00 PM: James Reimer gets the start for the Maple Leafs in Boston on Tuesday. In 15 career games against the Bruins, Reimer is 5-6-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Here’s what he had to say after the morning skate…

Leafs TV

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On putting 200 career games into perspective:

It has been a good run so far. I remember that first game, I don’t know if I came in with six or eight or 10 minutes left, I’m not quite sure but it was pretty nerve-wracking for that one. It has been a good couple of years here and it’s pretty cool to hit 200.

Is the best part of hitting a milestone knowing you’ve had longevity in the League?

Yeah, obviously it’s the best league in the world and it’s a tough thing to do, it’s a tough sport and obviously lots of people are vying for your job. It has been a fun ride so far and hopefully we can go for a couple hundred more.

What’s it going to take to win tonight given how close the games have been head-to-head?

More of the same. They’re a really good team over there, they have a lot of skill and size and they move well too. I think for me and for our team it’s just making sure we’re sound with our structure. It’s the first game after the break and you want to be harping on the details, making sure you’re doing things right. For me it’s more of the same. You want to be big and agile out there, make sure you’re doing what you can to see the puck.

Has Brad Marchand done anything differently to have success against the Leafs this season?

He’s a good player, he has a lot of skill and he can shoot the puck well. He’s a player that’s obviously pretty valuable to them and he’s done a good job so far.



1:45 PM: Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say ahead of Tuesday’s game in Boston…

Leafs TV
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On Corrado’s status after practicing following a puck to the face:

I didn’t ask him, he was back out there.

What are you looking to get out of shuffling the defensive pairs?

Well just righty-lefty. With Marty in we’ve got a lefty-righty pair, I’m real comfortable with Dion and Gards but the bottom line is two righties together isn’t as good as it could be so we just switched them so we’ll see how it goes. I didn’t mind it in Tampa the other night.

What can Gardiner bring to you in the middle of the ice on the power play?

Basically what we’re doing is we’re trying to get the guys out there that give us the best chance to score. Our power play, when we go through it from a logical perspective and we go through scoring chances and entries and faceoff wins, we’re getting chances. We haven’t finished at all and in the end you’ve got to find a way to score a goal. We need to find a way to score a goal tonight and get some momentum for those guys. The other thing about your power play, as much as it helps you win games, it gives your best players confidence to score and then it carries over to 5-on-5. When you’re squeezing it a little bit like we have this last while when it hasn’t gone in, there’s trends that happen in the game obviously. We understand we’re going to score, we understand we’re going to get through it, it’s just when. We’d like to push that quicker.

On the forecheck as a key to victory:

You know, it’s interesting, our games against Boston, the first game to me was no contest. I thought we played real well in our building. The game was tight last time we played in Boston as far as being on the scoreboard but they were better than us and they were better than us from the start until the end. Us handling their forecheck, they forecheck real well. Us handling their O-zone cycle, they do a good job getting it to the top and crashing the net and making it hard on you. In order to prevent all those things, let’s execute, let’s be organized coming out of our zone, let’s be executing in our own zone and spend more time in their zone.

Do you find games get much tougher out of the all-star break?

As the League starts — and your first 20 games you get your softest 20, in my opinion anyway — the pace, the execution isn’t as high. As the pace goes higher and higher, the best players get better and better and the guys with skill continue to make plays.

Is the success of the Marlies a way to motivate the current group with players pushing for jobs below?

I never thought about using that with them, that’s not what I’m trying to do at all, threaten anybody with their job. They’re big boys, they can read the paper, they know who’s coming but each guy, we want to maximize our group and maximize the potential of each and every guy and if we’re not doing that we’ve got to find a way to do that better. So, no, I’m not using that at all.

What does coming up on 1000 games coached in the NHL mean to you?

I never really thought about it to tell you the truth. Obviously you’ve been in the League a long time and you must have had some success or you don’t get to stay in the League, no different than a player. I feel real honoured to coach in the National Hockey League, there’s only 30 of those jobs, I believe it’s the best League in the world. Obviously you’ve been able to keep your job long enough to get that long. How’s that?

12:30 PM: The Maple Leafs get back to action following the All-Star break on Tuesday night when they visit the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs last played on Jan. 27 when they dropped a 1-0 score to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jonathan Bernier had 28 saves in the loss. James Reimer is projected to get the start in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Bruins were last in action on Jan. 26 and took a 6-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Zach Trotman and Zdeno Chara scored for the Bruins in the loss, while Tuukka Rask made 19 saves and took the loss after entering the game in relief on Jonas Gustavsson. Rask is slated to make the start on Tuesday against the Leafs.

Stay tuned for projected lineups, comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 49 – Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

Maple Leafs fall under the sway of Steven Stamkos

From Pension Puppets

The Leafs go into the All-Star break not quite last in the league. Last night they took their show on the road to Tampa and fell for Steven Stamkos all over again.

Any time a game is 1-0, it’s likely either team could have won it. I think that’s true about Toronto vs. Tampa last night.

The graph shows the ebb and flow of all situations play. The ebb tide went Tampa’s way hard for most of the first, but the rest of the game was the Leafs, catching up, coming even, taking control.

Through all that Jonathan Bernier had one of the best nights of his wildly up and down season, so that’s a huge positive for him. He looked as dialled in as Reimer on his best day.

The Leafs looked outclassed by a better team at first, and they were doing that thing where bad positioning and bad decisions led to bad penalties. And Steven Stamkos knows how to take advantage of a penalty kill that isn’t on 100%.

But a funny thing happened as the game came more and more into focus for the Leafs. They stopped taking so many penalties, passes connected, the offensive players got to play where they’re good, and the Leafs got their game back. It’s been gone for a while, and that was good to see.

The best part of the game though had to be Frank Corrado playing a smooth set of shifts, mostly with Dion Phaneuf. He played just over five minutes of 5-on-5, and was good for all of it.

Dion Phaneuf was excellent all night, maybe his best game in a while, and he also drew a couple of penalties instead of taking any.

Morgan Rielly led the team in individual shots (all shots, not shots on goal), and he came on more and more as the tide turned and the play moved to Tampa’s end of the ice.

Roman Polak had a very bad, no good night, but considering he was the only guy who showed up to play in Sunrise the night before, I’ll give him a pass.

Top forward was, as always, Nazem Kadri. He and Michael Grabner had lots of chances.

Not really a factor offensively was Nick Spaling’s line. They were matched up primarily against Stamkos and held the line to nearly even with him, so they got their job done, but Joffrey Lupul is not going to score much when he’s busy tying up guys in the neutral zone. He still managed two shots though, when he wasn’t busy elsewhere. So did Peter Holland.

The fourth line was solid all night, even in the first period when no one else was. Byron Froese, Rich Clune and Frank Corrado led the way in CF%.

One curious thing stands out: Tyler Bozak and P.-A. Parenteau each had two shots, and I think two and two are still four. But their Corsi For was 14 and 10 respectively. Who was shooting? It sure wasn’t Shawn Mathias. I guess the D were getting busy and taking care of things. I don’t think that’s a recipe for success.

Again though, Jonathan Bernier, 29 saves, was the player of the game. Unfortunately for him Andrei Vasilevskiy managed 30 and got his first career shutout.

Acha’s notes

– I attended the game last night. I had a side-angle view of the Leafs’ bench, so I spent a large portion of the night staring in fascination at Babcock to see how he coached. He always looked 100% intent and involved in the play, but did not always just stare at the puck-carrier. He looked all over the ice to see positioning. He also maintained the most professional demeanor I’ve ever seen on the bench, never actually showing emotion other than a calm interest in what was going on.

– Moments when Babcock looked up at the jumbotron: before the anthem to see the starting lineup, for replays of certain things, like penalties or saves, for the announcements of Amalie’s community activism things like “standing salute” and “community hero.”

– Moments when Babcock talked to players: He generally did not talk much to his players, except for during the one time-out called before the last minute of play. It was almost like he expected them to know his system already without a lot of talk. He occasionally leaned down and talked to a player after they did something “coachable” that he didn’t really like, but I felt that was rare.

– I had playoff series flashbacks to the Red Wings – Bolts because of Babcock’s coaching style and how the teams interacted with each other. Leafs’ backcheck was tough for Bolts to fight through. Had Bernier made the save on Stamkos during the power play, the game would’ve been very different. I felt that the teams were evenly matched (discounting the first, for the Leafs, and the third, for the Bolts). If Vasilevskiy’s parents hadn’t been in the stands watching him play in the NHL for the first time ever, I think the score would’ve been more like 3-1, Leafs.

– The two loud PINGS from Leafs’ pucks on Vasy’s crossbars made the Leafs-fan-filled audience groan.

– It was really hard to tell who was rooting for whom, mostly because the jerseys are so similar. But the arena was at around 90% capacity, and I’d say a good 40% were Leafs fans down for a visit.

– Pirates? What? Yesterday was the start of Tampa Bay’s pirate/music celebration, Gasparilla.

– During first intermission, I met a PPP reader wearing a Rielly jersey. It was fun to hang out with a Tampa Bay-area Leafs fan and reader of the site! Nice to meet you, Mr. Bertrand. (He got to listen to me school a guy in a Marlies sweater about what a “Solar Bear” is.)

Source: Maple Leafs fall under the sway of Steven Stamkos

Leafs’ Frank Corrado excited to crack lineup for game against Lightning

From The Star

TAMPA, FLA.—Frank Corrado says he’s ready to get back in the Maple Leafs lineup.

“When you get games sporadically, you definitely want to make the most of it,” said the defenceman, who has been sparingly used by the team. “The big one for me is to get a win in the lineup. We haven’t won with me in the lineup yet.”

Corrado, 22, has played just four games this season since he was picked up on waivers from Vancouver before the season began. He has one assist and is minus-3.

But he’ll play Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the only lineup change confirmed by coach Mike Babcock.

He hasn’t played since Jan. 9.

“It’s always tough when you don’t know exactly,” said Corrado. “You practise hard, you work out in the gym, you stay on the ice later, and you be ready to go. We’re creatures of habit, so game-day routine is the same.”

GOALIE MATCHUP

Jonathan Bernier (6-12-3, 3.13, .899) vs Andrei Vasilevskiy (7-4-0, 2.85, .906)

Bernier: “I feel good about my game lately. I have to make sure I prepare the same way and give a chance for my team to win.”

POSSIBLE CHANGES

Michael Grabner will be a game-time decision after taking a puck to the face on Tuesday in Florida.

Nick Spaling is doubtful. The team may not want him competing in back-to-back games after coming back from a long layoff.

Source: Leafs’ Frank Corrado excited to crack lineup for game against Lightning

Recap: Panthers 5, Leafs 1

From Pension Puppets

The Leafs’ penalty kill sunk the ship tonight.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

The Leafs began this game looking to avoid the slow starts that have characterized their last half a dozen games, but instead, the first shift of the game saw Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Michael Grabner run around in their own end only to yield a dangerous chance on their own net from the slot that James Reimer had to be sharp on. From there, Florida continued to control play for the first half of the opening period, with the Leafs unable to mount any sustained attack or maintain possession of the puck.

Although the Kadri line had a couple shot attempts, the Leafs failed to actually put the puck on net through the first ten minutes of the game, at which point the shot count was 7-0 Florida and the Leafs’ and Nick Spaling went to the box for interference.

It took until just past the 13 minute-mark in the first period for Peter Holland to wrist a weak shot on Roberto Luongo from a bad angle. The 5v5 Corsi numbers looked just as bad, at 12-2 for the Panthers.

In a sequence reminiscent of Randy Carlyle’s tenure with the Leafs, the Leafs scored first despite being totally outplayed, as Kadri waltzed by a fallen Erik Gudbrandson and hung on to the puck as he moved laterally around a floundering Luongo.

Oddly, Holland decided to fight Aaron Ekblad after a relatively innocuous play with under a minute remaining in the first. It appeared to be a bit of a puzzling decision on Holland’s part in that he and Ekblad had no noticeable altercations leading up to it, but in any event, Holland hung in there and sat for 5.

Dion Phaneuf took a boarding call just 2:46 into the second period on Quinton Howden, and then had to fight Dmitry Kulikov for his indiscretion. On the ensuing power play, it was Alexander Barkov who took a great pass from Brian Campbell to walk in alone and throw a backhand top shelf over a sprawling Reimer. Matt Hunwick appeared to be interfered with on the play, but Babcock’s protests to referee Dan O’Rourke went unheeded.

On the Leafs’ third penalty kill of the game, the Panthers struck again. Vincent Trochek snuck in behind Hunwick as the Panthers came through the neutral zone with a lot of speed, and took a great pass from Jussi Jokinen that left Reimer helpless.

Rielly took just his fourth minor penalty of the season to put the Leafs on the penalty kill – their fourth of the night – and although the Leafs managed to kill it off, the 29th-ranked Florida power play looked dangerous, and Reimer again had to make a great save on a shot from in close to keep the game at 2-1.

Immediately following a great shift from the line of Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias and P.A. Parenteau, it was Jussi Jokinen who made it 3-1 for Florida after Spaling made a horrible giveaway in the neutral zone. Jokinen took a pass on a 2-on-1 while Reimer moved laterally and the Leafs’ goaltender had no chance on the play.

The Leafs would take another penalty before the period was over but somehow managed not to be scored on. The shots were 22-15 in favour of Florida, though the 5v5 Corsi attempts were 25-24 in favour of the Leafs.

The third period started with the teams exchanging chances, as Campbell hit the post behind Reimer and then Joffrey Lupul was stopped on a 2-on-1 going the other direction immediately after.

Then, following three consecutive saves, Reilly Smith was left alone in front of the Leafs’ net by Martin Marincin, and Smith buried a rebound to make the game 4-1 Panthers, effectively icing the game just five minutes into the third.

Things went from bad to ugly around the 8-minute mark as a long lob from Alex Petrovic at the blue line eluded Reimer, who appeared not to see the puck at all, despite a lack of screen.

Ultimately, the Leafs won the 5v5 Corsi battle 39-32, but you would also expect them to, given that they trailed for most of the game. Special teams were the Leafs’ downfall again tonight, as they got lit up by the 29th-ranked power play in the league, and also failed to score when they had the man advantage once again.

The Leafs have one more game tomorrow against Tampa Bay before the All-Star break.

Notes on individual players:

– James Reimer allowed more than 3 goals for the first time in 19 games played. We’ll cut him some slack.

– Michael Grabner left the game after taking a puck to the mouth in the second period and did not return. He was visibly bleeding as he left the ice. Peter Holland took his place on the Kadri line for the remainder of the game.

Roman Polak played a lot tonight with the Leafs so often on the penalty kill and with Phaneuf out for 7 minutes of the second period for his boarding/fighting.

– Nazem Kadri had the Leafs’ only goal and was probably also the Leafs’ best player tonight, despite his finish in the middle of the pile of Leafs’ 5v5 CF numbers. He was up against the Panthers’ top line and kept them off the scoresheet until they notched a couple on the power play, when Kadri wasn’t on the ice anyway.

– The other Leaf that deserves an honourable mention tonight is Morgan Rielly. He looked good all evening, and lead the team in the 5v5 CF department.

Source: Recap: Panthers 5, Leafs 1

Game Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

From Pension Puppets

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In which the Leafs hopefully keep Aleksander Barkov from justifying his big new contract.

MAPLE LEAFS (17-20-9) at PANTHERS (28-15-5)

7:30 PM – BB&T CENTER

TV: FS-F, TSN4; RADIO: SPORTSNET 590

SPANISH BROADCAST AVAILABLE

SBN: Litterboxcats

Some teams have draft busts from the 2013 draft, and other teams don’t. Yesterday, the Florida Panthers signed 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov to a six-year extension worth an average of $5.9 million per season. Drafted second overall (in the same class in which Jonathan Drouin was drafted third), Barkov has met Panthers’ expectations with 12G/18A this season, good for third on the team in scoring. With any luck, this means he partied hard last night and will play like crap, right?

James Reimer will get his fourth start in a row, and Roberto Luongo will get his third in a row. Luongo is fresh from defeating the two Stanley Cup Finals teams on back-to-back nights in ridiculous blow-out games. He completely shut out the Blackhawks 4-0, and his team chased Tampa Bay backup Andrei Vasilevskiy from the net to end the Bolts 5-2.

The Cats snapped a four-game skid that somehow coincided exactly with star Aaron Ekblad’s absence from the lineup (out with an upper-body injury that looked a lot like a concussion for four games). How different were the Florida Panthers with Ekblad out of the game? Their Seashells/60 took an enormous hit, let me tell you.

Comparing the two teams:

Toronto Florida
Record 17-20-9 28-15-5
Division Rank 7th Atlantic 1st Atlantic
Conference 14th East 2nd East
League 27th overall 6th overall
Top Scorer Leo Komarov 16G Jaromir Jagr 15G
Top Points Leo Komarov 31pts Jonathan Huberdeau 34pts
Top Goalie James Reimer .937sv% Roberto Luongo .930sv%

Are the Florida Panthers riding PDO?

Yes. But. A writer at Litterboxcats explains that maybe there’s more to the Cats’ success than their looks:

Let’s start with this- the major concern the analytics folks have with the Panthers is that the differential in shots-for and shots-against is large. As of this writing, the Panthers are 15th in the league in shots-against and 28th in the league in shots-for. That results in terrible Corsi and Fenwick ratings (which at their root are shot differential measurements). Stanley Cup contenders normally have very good Corsi and Fenwick ratings. (…)

The Cats did boast the league’s top save percentage after the Vancouver game, with a .928 shared between Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya. That high save percentage leads to an above average PDO (102.6), good for 2nd best in the league. High PDO’s can not normally be maintained and fall back to the average.

What it looks like on a few stats is that the Panthers give up a league average number of shots-against, have tops in the league goaltending, barely ever possess the puck on offense- which results in no shots-for, and get lucky on the few shots they do take to score their goals. The reality is a lot more complicated than that.

The Panthers are 3rd in the league in goal differential, having scored 113 goals, while only giving up 91 (+22 differential for those weak in math). The company they are keeping in that category is excellent, as they are surrounded by Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.

[You can go argue with the author over here.]

Are Panthers riding their goaltenders?

Probably. But. Another author at Litterboxcats explains that a lot of teams needs elite goaltending to get ahead in standings. Case in point, Habs without Price. [Er, what?] You can go argue with that person over here.

Will the Leafs players be tougher than Andrew Shaw?

I mean, the guy swallowed two of his own teeth last time he faced the Panthers.

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen – Vincent Trocheck – Reilly Smith
Quinton Howden – Nick Bjugstad – Logan Shaw
Shawn Thornton – Derek MacKenzie – Corban Knight

Brian Campbell – Aaron Ekblad
Dmitry Kulikov – Erik Gudbranson
Steve Kampfer – Alex Petrovic

George Richards@GeorgeRichards
Brandon Pirri out of #FlaPanthers lineup for third consecutive night

MAPLE LEAFS

Nick Spaling draws back into the lineup, and Leivo sits.

Shawn MatthiasTyler Bozak – PA Parenteau
Michael GrabnerNazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Joffrey LupulPeter Holland – Nick Spaling
Daniel WinnikByron FroeseRich Clune

Matt HunwickMorgan Rielly
Jake GardinerDion Phaneuf
Martin MarincinRoman Polak

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Injured: James van Riemsdyk (foot), Stephane Robidas (lower body), Nathan Horton (nack/back)
Scratched: Frank Corrado, Brad Boyes, Josh Leivo

Yesterday’s PP units:

Matthias-Bozak-Parenteau-Rielly-Phaneuf, Lupul-Kadri-Holland-Komarov-Gardiner

Bromance Alert

Aleksander Barkov@Barkovsasha95
@KevinSpacey thanks 4 the good luck I’m in for 6 more years noon presser tomorrow @LKomarov your invited…Thanks @FlaPanthers @Dougielarge

Leo Komarov@LKomarov
@Barkovsasha95 @KevinSpacey can’t make it i will congratulate you komarov style 2morrow, congrats buddy:facepunch: #headsup #seeyouinmyhockeyschool

Source: Game Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

Game Journal: Game 47 – Maple Leafs vs. Panthers

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs



6:30 PM: Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say ahead of Tuesday’s game in Sunrise.

Leafs TV

On the importance of a quick start tonight:
We haven’t started very good the last four games. We’ve been outplayed the first 10 minutes so we’ve got to turn that around and obviously we’re playing a good team. Now, we played real well against the good teams. We’ve got to be organized, tight-checking and working hard tonight.

What have you seen the Panthers that’s brought them to this point?
We played them a lot when I was in Detroit and the team has really been coming for three years now. Obviously when you draft where they draft, you draft the kids they’ve drafted, you end up to be a pretty good team with a pretty good skillset. They’ve done a good job building a program here. They’ve really skated. The last couple of years they were hard for us just because of the way they skate and they’re going to be hard for us here tonight. We’re going to have to be on the right side of the puck and work hard.

On the Panthers as a template:
Well, yeah, how did we get here though? The problem with the template is that there’s first round pick, first round pick, first round pick, first round pick all high. In order to get that you’ve got to earn that. There’s lots of wounds to earn that. It’s great to say it’s a template. Chicago did it, Pittsburgh did it, these guys are doing it. I don’t know how much fun that is though… What I do know is you’ve got to draft like crazy, you’ve got to develop like crazy, you’ve got to make good decisions. If you make good enough decisions and draft high enough long enough, pretty soon you end up with a real good team.

What does Nick Spaling bring back to the penalty kill?
Well not just our penalty kill, it gives us another centre that can play without the puck. I like Holly but I like him way better on the wing. It gives us a right and left-hand penalty kill faceoff guy. It gives us a veteran player that knows how to play. You’re not as concerned with him in the D zone. Now, he’s got to get up and running too. He has been off for a long time, but we still think he can help our team.

On the comparison between Ekblad and Lidstrom:
Well, he’s a real good player this kid. He’s a right handed shot but he’s got the heavy bomb, he’s got the good stick, he’s got the big size — bigger than Nick was — but great hockey IQ, good skater, he’s an elite, elite player and he’s 19 years old. Everything about him, you don’t see him make a lot of mistakes and that was Nick, he was mistake-free. The really smart guys, even when they’re young, aren’t on a highlight video going the wrong direction. That seems to be him… We did the pre-scout and he’s not in the mistakes. That’s just the way he is. He’s got good hockey sense.

3:45 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Kyle Rehman and Dan O’Rourke. Derek Amell and Tony Sericolo will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen tee up tonight’s game in Sunrise. Take a look…


2:30 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Panthers.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov

23 Matthias – 42 Bozak – 15 Parenteau

24 Holland – 16 Spaling – 19 Lupul

26 Winnik – 56 Froese – 25 Clune

Defence

51 Gardiner – 3 Phaneuf

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly

52 Marincin – 46 Polak

Goaltenders

34 Reimer

45 Bernier

Florida Panthers

Forwards

11 Huberdeau – 16 Barkov – 68 Jagr

36 Jokinen – 21 Trocheck – 18 Smith

42 Howden – 27 Bjugstad – 48 Shaw

22 Thornton – 17 MacKenzie – 53 Knight

Defence

51 Campbell – 5 Ekblad

7 Kulikov – 44 Gudbranson

3 Kampfer – 6 Petrovic

Goaltenders

1 Luongo

35 Montoya

2:15 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Tuesday night when they visit the Florida Panthers.

The Leafs are coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Leafs. James Reimer made 27 stops in the loss, picking up a point for the Leafs in the process. He’ll return to the net on Tuesday in Sunrise.

The Panthers last played on Sunday and defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 5-2 score. Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck and Brian Campbell scored for the Panthers in the win. Roberto Luongo made 38 stops to preserve the victory. Luongo will start for the Panthers on Tuesday night.

Stay tuned for projected lineups, comments from Coach Babcock, the Leafs and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 47 – Maple Leafs vs. Panthers